NAGAPATTINAM: The Coastal Security Group (CSG) on Tuesday seized 1,080 kg of sea cucumbers and other protected species from a building in Akkaraipettai. The contraband is worth several lakhs in India and over crores in foreign countries.
Based on a tip-off that a person is preserving several kilos of sea cucumbers to be exported illegally, the police conducted a raid at an old building near Shri Mariamman Temple in Akkaraipettai around 2pm on Tuesday. There they found large quantities of sea cucumber being dried in the sun. A total of 248 kg was already preserved while 812 kg was about to be preserved. They also found four kilograms of sea horses and 16 kg of shark wings in preserved state and seized them.
The police also seized apparatus like stoves, gas cylinders, and tarpaulin sheets used for heating and drying the protected species in order to preserve them, and cold storage boxes and barrels.
The suspect was later identified as T Murugananatham.
P Raja, inspector at Nagapattinam Marine Police Station, said, "The suspect might have collected these species, which are protected under the Wildlife Act, from the fishers in Nagapattinam and Karaikal over months. He had been preserving them like dried fish (karuvaadu) such that people could not suspect his activities. We believe the contraband was about to be smuggled to foreign countries through ships via commercial ports."
Later, the CSG team handed over the seized contraband to the Forest Department as per the advice of Superintendent of Police K Gunasekaran and ASP R Ramesh Krishnan. The police are investigating whether more are involved in the illegal activity.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), sea cucumbers are considered endangered, sea horses as threatened and sharks as vulnerable and endangered. They are smuggled for medicinal and ornamental purposes, apart from edibility value.